The two rushed forward at each other, swords drawn. Clang! The swords clashed, but at the same time, while Shadow had his eyes on Paul’s sword, Paul had drawn a knife from his belt and propelled it towards Shadow’s chest. His aim was true, because while Shadow withdrew his sword to come in for another strike, he collapsed, blood seeping through the wound at his heart.
“Paaaul,” he rasped, his voice barely a whisper. “Sensei, he…,” his voice trailed off as his eyelids slowly closed.
“What were you saying?!” shouted Paul. “What did Sensei do!?”
“Sensei…” Shadow had spoken his last words, and breathed his last breath. He lay his head on the soil as the eternal sleep took him over. Suddenly, a wave of black rings spread out from Shadow’s body, moving nothing, but carrying power. The wave was directed towards Paul. As soon as it touched him, it dissipated into a black, smoky substance, floating towards the rising sun. But that wasn’t all. Power, fresh but old, coursed through Paul’s veins. He finally had his powers back. As he rose into the air, preparing for his flight back to the dojo, his hands caught fire, likewise with his feet.
“MY POWERS ARE BACK!!” he shouted out to the world, full of energy. He looked down at Shadow’s dead body, the knife in its chest, and shook his head. Don’t let this distract you, he told himself, It was a rightful kill. He’s already done too much damage to this place, and you just fixed it.
. . .
2 years ago…
Shadow smiled to himself. He knew his plan was going to work. He slung the bag of ‘money’ over his shoulder and kept his pistol low. He turned around and gazed in the distance, trying to see how much chaos he had created with the fire at the Bank of America. Police were sprawled over the city looking for him, but one specific policeman who lived in the very neighborhood Shadow was walking in was the policeman he wanted to be discovered by.
“Throw the gun and the money down and put your hands where I can see them!” a voice called out behind Shadow. Shadow smiled. Luck was on his side today. He turned around and threw the bag and the gun towards the cop, which actually contained 5 pounds of plastic explosive, more than enough to put a little hole in the street. The cop, Matthew, had a surprised look on his face, but he barely had time to move his lips before more than half of his body disintegrated into ashes.
Another boy came running down the street to look at the commotion, looked down in the crater and immediately realized what had happened. He knew enough about bombs even without his brother being a cop, and he knew that this much damage needed a big amount. He sank to his knees at the bottom of the crater, clutching the fabric and the badge of his brother’s uniform as tears rolled freely down his cheek. He looked at what remained of his brother’s body, then looked up and screamed, “WHY?” It was only then when he noticed a dark man, as dark as the moonless sky above, standing at the edge of the crater, smiling.
“You can call me Shadow, and by the way, Paul, I know who you are and I’m sorry, but these were my orders,” he said.
“I will kill you one day, you-” Paul uttered a single foul word.
“Watch your mouth, kid. You shouldn’t say stuff like that,” said Shadow, with hint of humor in his voice. Paul screamed and charged at Shadow. He tired kicking Shadow, but Shadow just grabbed his foot in mid-kick and flipped him over. In a flash, Paul was back up on his feet, ready to lash out again, but all that was left in front of him was a small, black wisp of smoke and the fading shadow of a man.
. . .
Three weeks later, Paul arrived at the foot of the mountain. After all his research, this had seemed to be the most sensible place if he wanted to train to become a ninja. He had laughed about to himself when he thought of the concept, but he still decided to give it a shot. Now he couldn’t turn back, and even if he wanted to, it’d be impossible, because he parachuted on to this island off a plane somewhere at the bottom of the Atlantic. He looked up as far as he could into the fog, which was about a few meters ahead of him. He sighed and started his climb.
. . .
Sensei stared down the mountain, wondering how long his newest pupil would take to get to the top of the mountain, but at the same time, he was conflicted about what had happened. The death he had wanted had not happened, but still, the target had been weakened. He summoned an orb of light using the magic that he mastered about a year after his mother’s death. He shook his head. That was why most of his pupils failed. They got stuck in the past, and couldn’t move ahead. Their sorrows drowned them.
From the corner of his eye, he saw movement, breaking his train of thought. Moments later, a boy stumbled out of the fog to where Sensei was standing, panting like a dog on his knees. He looked up and said, “Sensei! Please can you help me- huuuuh! - train- huuh... someone killed my brother- I want to learn how to fight back! Please!” His breaths were becoming more steady.
“Very well. But right now, I sense anger and hatred boiling in you, and you are only bent on revenge. Only, and only if you can change your intentions, and control your emotions, then I will train you,” said Sensei said, surprising on how much thrill the child had to train.
“YES! Thank you, Sensei, thank you! Yes, yes, yes, yes!” shouted Paul, filled with enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm he had. Over the span of only one year, better than any other student Sensei had ever taught, Paul had a black belt and a medal, but he had no chi to bring magic from within him, but he could take someone else's. Paul had also grown quite affectionate for Sensei and likewise with Sensei. Tears rolled down Paul’s face as he turned around to leave the mountain. Sensei teleported Paul back home with his magic to start his search for Shadow.
That very night, Sensei sat in his cabin, staring at the tiny hologram projector on his desk. Suddenly, it lit up blue and projected a small form of Shadow. “Do you have any progress with the target?” demanded Sensei, his voice cold enough to freeze lava.
“I’ve set up a trail of breadcrumbs for him to follow, starting from his dead brother,” smiled Shadow.
“Breadcrumbs?” Sensei asked, confused.
“Never mind,” said Shadow. “I basically set up a trail of clues, starting at his brother’s grave stone, which I know he’ll visit right away. Then he’ll come straight to me.”
“Good,” said Sensei, reaching for something in the depths of his desk. “Don’t be too overconfident, and this is just to make sure you won’t end up like the others.”
“Wha-” asked Shadow as Sensei hit the button he was looking for, and he held it as Shadow’s screams rang out into the night.
. . .
Paul first stop, even before entering his home, was the graveyard. He spotted his brother’s grave stone almost immediately, but there was something strange about it. On the grave lay a shadow of a man, and the inscription wrote: Find me in the Amazon. Rage poured into Paul like a waterfall. He stared at the shadow, stared at the inscription, and then remembered Sensei’s first lesson: Control your emotions. He slowly calmed down, taking deep breaths. He knew where he had to go. The Amazon Rainforest. He knew his journey wouldn’t be an easy one, but he had to right Shadow’s wrongs by ending him. He turned around and touched the medal Sensei had given him. He pressed the center, with an image of the Amazon in mind, and disappeared, leaving the graveyard empty once more.
It took Paul almost a year to find Shadow’s hideout. The teleportation magic Sensei gave him had brought him as far as the Amazon, but the search was for Paul. Shadow obviously had to have set up traps for Paul. On his second day, he was on top of a tree, scouting, when a ball of fire materialized a few yards from him and flew at the tree. He jumped off towards another tree, which almost immediately burst into flames. Thankfully, he had miscalculated the jump, but he still landed hard on the rough, rugged ground. Paul got on his knees and examined his hands. They were bleeding badly, but that wasn’t the current problem.
In front of Paul, leaves and twigs steamed and disintegrated by the heat, and the source of it was either getting stronger, or coming closer. Paul stood up while twirling around and delivering a killing punch in one motion, but his opponent was fast, and hot. He knew something had pushed his hand aside, leaving him with blisters, but there was nothing to be seen for miles around except the brown and green of the forest.
A whooshing sound filled Paul’s ears, one that was very familiar to him after sparring so much in the dojo, and like lightning, Paul drew the knife concealed in his belt and stabbed it into the air behind him at chest level. The air rippled and cooled for a second, and then a shadow fell on the ground, and in a few more seconds, its source was revealed. In Paul’s arms lay a completely charred figure, everything on its body rough and black, except for its eyes, which were a glazed milky white, but sparkling like stars. For a moment, Paul just stared in disgust, when he was suddenly thrown back by an unseen force.
When Paul opened his eyes, the charred thing had been reduced to ashes, and Paul felt strange... and powerful. Fresh energy coursed through his veins, but it was becoming to much. He tried pushing it out, and suddenly his hands burst into flames, and spread across him in a matter of seconds, but Paul just felt more alive, not harmed or different in any way. I’m hallucinating. This can’t be happening, Paul thought, and then without warning, he was started to rise slowly. Yeah, I’m definitely seeing things. Many thoughts raced through his mind at the moment, but he couldn’t believe this was actually happening to him.
Soon, the whole forest was spread out below him. He willed himself to stop, and he did. Paul then noticed that he had had his breath held the whole time, and let it all out. After a few more deep breaths, Paul willed himself forward, and he found himself drifting towards nowhere in particular. He did the same thing to rise a bit higher, but then a tiny flash of red and orange down in the forest caught his eye. In the blink of his eye, it had covered everything and was still expanding. Only one thought came to him. Fire.
He swooped down before he could change his mind and landed in the very center. Paul blinked once, then twice. He felt completely normal. The air suddenly chilled, and a shadow spread over him. Paul looked up and saw a distinct figure hovering above, but he didn’t need anything to recognize who it was. Shadow. He shot up into the sky, and only then he realized that Shadow had stopped the fire. This made him falter, and that was all Shadow needed to get away.
Paul spent the nine months like that. He would start fires to lure Shadow out, but every time he got away. Paul had been following Shadow’s general direction of escape, but that one Monday night, he hit home.
Paul had been wading through some bushes when he stepped into the clearing. Ahead of him stood a cave with a barred entrance. As he approached, two devices popped out of the rock. One started scanning him, and as it got to his chest, the other device spoke: “Object recognized.” A small snake-like thing erupted from it and snatched Paul’s medallion, and also drained his powers. He immediately crumpled to the ground, feeling weak and powerless, but gathered enough strength to stand. As he did, the bars slowly lowered into the ground, leaving Paul free to enter.
Something didn’t feel right though. The air chilled, like the hundreds of times before, and Paul looked up to face Shadow. “Took you long enough,” he mocked.
“Trust me, your death will be a lot quicker,” replied Paul. Paul drew his sword, as did Shadow, who lowered to the ground. They both made eye contact, then started running towards each other. Their swords met in midair, and held there for a second. As Shadow drew back, Paul threw the same knife he had used to kill the creature which gave him his powers. Shadow crumpled to the ground, blood slowly spreading from where the knife hit him.
“Sensei…” Shadow had spoken his final words. A wave of dark rings circled from out of Shadow, and as they hit Paul, his powers came back to him. He looked one last time at Shadow, then turned around to fly back to the dojo.
When Paul got back, Sensei was asleep in his office, but there was a picture of Paul’s own face on a bulletin board, with KILL written over it. This was what Shadow tried telling him. Without a second thought Paul unsheathed his sword and put it in Sensei’s heart, tears forming and dropping from his eyes. Heartbroken, he walked out and gathered his things to leave.